Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Yucatan portal to the Underworld

On the way back to Cancun we stopped at two cenotes, those places in the Yucatan where the water that never manifests itself on the surface, becomes visible, even if it means peering through a hole in the ground to a an underground lake 70 feet below. The two cenotes we visited were in Vallodolid, the cenote Zaci and the cenote Dzitnup. The cenote Dzitnup was virtually entirely underground, with only a 10 feet diameter hole at the roof light into the cavern. It was not deep, and was lit up with tri-color LED lights. The roots of the trees above hung down in the cave, reaching to within 3 feet of the water. The Zaci cenote had been worked on more by man, and there was a nice thatched restaurant at the top. This one was very deep, and we were not even to the bottom when suddenly Nate Butler launches himself off a cliff…plummeting to the water 25 feet below…followed by 6 other members of the group. Last off was Justine LaMantia, who reluctantly jumped. We didn’t quite land right, and it was accompanied by a painful slap sound. But she bobbed to the surface quickly and was just fine.

I jumped twice, but had the most problems with the swing rope. It was that hard nylon and it slipped almost immediately These are amazing sites, and a trip to the Yucatan would not be complete without seeing at least one.

Thoughts on the Middle School of Santa Elena- As expected, they are bare bones. Basically four walls, hard chairs, whiteboard with black dry erase markers, and a couple of desks. The bathrooms have there own building and are atrocious.

The kids seem mostly intent and alert. They came prepared with pens and paper, and brought scissors when asked. When asked to copy something down, they mostly did so immediately. They arrived at 1pm, even though the people to unlock the gate often did not. There seems to be no worry about students showing up late for class…they simply come in and sit down. In many ways, these kids seem to be treated as adults. Perhaps it is because they are given more responsibility at home. At one point during the chemistry project demonstration, a 14 year old boy launched a rocker. Everybody else had built their projects around plastic. This was the theme that the teacher assigned I believe…mostly because if there is one thing you can find in Santa Elena that would be free, it would be plastic. I can be found in ditches and backyards, if it isn’t burning in the fire. This young man had built a red space shuttle kind of rocket. He marched out and set up a launch ramp, which pointed at some kids playing on the soccer field. Eventually it was set and he lit the fuse…this was no water bottle rocker. Much to my surprise, it didn’t explode on the launch pad but shot off at a high speed. When the fuel ran out, it did a quick spiral and fell right behind the soccer goal…with the kids playing soccer cheering along with the spectators. There were about 10 things that would not be allowed in the USA.

During the chemisty, the four of us…Justine, Diana, Nate and I… sat at the front of the classroom as guests of honor. At one point, a girl took the cap off two plastic bottles that used to contain Gatorade and poured four cups of a viscous fluid and brought them over to present them to us. We had been warned not to consume local food, but we knew it would be disrespectful to refuse so three of us drank it smiling. It seemed to be some kind of banana apple concoction. Justine held hers and took pictures. Later we were served some kind of mango/milk/ pudding that everyone ate. As far as I was concerned, no intestinal upset came from the event.

School seems helter skelter, but when students get left with free time, they don’t go home or leave campus (for the most part), they just do what kids like to do, play soccer, throw a baseball, or sit and talk…waiting for an adult to show up and tell them to get into class. They were polite and respectful, but one never knows if this is the way it is all the time.

Love the idea of uniforms for Durham Public Schools, and the visit to mexico reinforced this idea. Despite the poverty of the area, all the kids looked neat and clean. And if they strayed off campus, they stood out in town.

While leaving, I noticed a piece of wood with a rusty nail sticking out on a piece of un-concreted earth, I picked it up to remove this “hazard”, only to have it pointed out that this entire piece of earth was covered with boards with rusty nails.

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